Education

Sanger students interact with NASA

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

It was 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Janell Miller's fifth grade class in Jackson Elementary. It was 7:30 a.m. Wednesday in Guam. But the time and location collapsed in the name of education, as Millers' class directed their attention at the smart board, where an online conversation was taking place with Emily Schaller, who's part of a NASA research team.

The research team is in Guam, studying climate change, and Sanger students had a lot of questions for the team.

"We can read all about what NASA is doing and what the air force is doing, but to be able to talk directly&you can't beat that," Miller said.

The online chat was made possible through a NASA education outreach program. In November, Miller signed up her class to take part in a live chat with a group of NASA scientists. Miller says the chat was originally opened to Middle School through College students, but she applied any way and her class was chosen.

Miller says the NASA team was studying glaciers in Antarctica during their November discussion. The conversation went well, and NASA decided to keep the dialogue going when they took their research to the Island on the Pacific.

Miller's class studied up on the atmospheric layers, and how weather systems form before their conversation with Schaller.

The conversation lasted more than 30 minutes and the students asked everything from NASA jobs and projects to the team's study. The students also learned the research team is using a multi-million dollar drone that to fly through the atmospheric layers.

Many of the kids wanted to know everything about the drone, from how big it was to the tools it carried.

"One was a laser," Student Jakob Estes explained.

10-year-old Mario Ponce asked about the measures in place to prevent the drone from crashing. He was excited to hear that the plane can land itself in case of emergency.

To get them excited about science at any level is really exciting," Miller said.

Of course one of her students, Tavery Martin, was excited about science to begin with.

"I think that science is interesting," Martin said. "It's my favorite subject because you learn more about how the earth works."

So she felt extremely privileged to get a chance to speak to a NASA researcher.

"I think it was super cool," she said afterwards. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."

After the online chat, Miller says she got an email from Schaller letting them know to shoot her any follow up questions the students may have.

Miller says a future conversation with the NASA team could be in the works too.

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